In a sweeping rejection of the defense case, a federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.I'm inclined to oppose the death penalty on principle, but it's really only on principle that you could reject it in this case, as far as I'm concerned -- this was a horrible crime, and any remorse Tsarnaev seemed to show was likely nothing more than an effort to save his own ass. If you think the judicial system shouldn't kill, that shouldn't matter. If you don't have that scruple, it's hard to make a case for sparing this guy. (Unless, of course, you argue that this will make him a martyr to the cause. I've said before that I think it will. So that's a reason.)
The jury found that death was the appropriate punishment for six of 17 capital counts -- all six related to Mr. Tsarnaev’s planting of a pressure-cooker bomb, which his lawyers never disputed. Mr. Tsarnaev sat stone-faced as the verdict was announced.
At the same time, the jury rejected the centerpiece of the defense argument, that he was under the influence of his older brother, Tamerlan, a self-radicalized jihadist. Nor did it believe that being locked away in the supermax prison in Colorado would sufficiently restrict Mr. Tsarnaev’s communications with the outside world.
Only two of the 12 jurors said on the verdict form that they believed he had expressed sorrow and remorse for his actions, a stinging rebuke to Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun who had testified for the defense that Mr. Tsarnaev was “genuinely sorry” for what he had done....
The notion that a supermax wouldn't sufficiently sequester him is, frankly, ridiculous. We already have Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, and Ramzi Yousef (not to mention Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, and Terry Nichols) in the supermax where Tsarnaev would have spent his life if he'd been spared. It's not exactly a country club:
If Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is spared the death penalty, he will likely spend the rest of his life at the most restrictive prison in America, a place so isolating that it has been called a clean version of hell.
The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility -- aka ADX, or "supermax" -- is where the federal government sends its worst criminals, from terrorists to traitors....
Even in general population, the ADX imposes extreme isolation. Prisoners spend about 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in 12-by-7-foot cells with a single 4-inch-wide window and walls thick enough to stifle any attempts at communication. A slot in the door is used to deliver meals and for any visits.
Amnesty International last year said the facility breached international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners.
"It breaks down the human spirit, it breaks down the human psyche. It breaks your mind," former supermax inmate Garrett Linderman told CBS' 60 Minutes in 2009.
Thirty-three convicted terrorists have been sent to ADX, ... and since 2002 they have been placed in a special section called "H unit" where they live under even tighter restrictions: no contact with the media or other inmates and personal visits and phone calls only with immediate family, for example.
Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post says:
We're not barbaric, we don't burn people alive. We give them a trial and then a drug cocktail that makes them feel like theyre burning alive— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) May 15, 2015
Yes, but if we choose not to lethally inject a terrorist, we send him to a place like the ADX and subject him to madness-inducing extremes of isolation. Yes, h'll get ten hours a week of exercise, but even that takes place in a cage not unlike the one in which that Jordanian pilot was burned:
The isolation makes people crazy. The New York Times Magazine did a story about ADX in March, and in a post I wrote about Tsarnaev and supermaxes I delicately alluded to what happened to one prisoner there who was driven crazy by solitary. I'm quoting the paragraph now, so you know what the "milder" penalty in this case could have been like. WARNING: This is not for the squeamish.
Over the next decade, Powers, by any rational accounting, lost his mind. He cut off both earlobes, chewed off a finger, sliced through his Achilles’ tendon, pushed staples into his face and forehead, swallowed a toothbrush and then tried to cut open his abdomen to retrieve it and injected what he considered “a pretty fair amount of bacteria-laden fluid” into his brain cavity after smashing a hole in his forehead. In 2005, after slicing open his scrotum and removing a testicle, Powers was sent to the medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Mo., for treatment, where a psychiatrist determined he was “not in need of inpatient psychiatric treatment or psychotropic medication” and that his behavior “was secondary to his antisocial disorder.” When he was returned to Springfield four years later, after slashing his wrists and writing “American Gulag” in blood on his bedsheets, the doctor wrote, “Considerations that [Powers] has some form of psychosis, thought disorder or mental illness are unfounded.”Jack Powers managed to get out of this hellhole, and got back on the road to sanity. But his crimes were nothing compared to Tsarnaev's.
So relax, folks. Tsarnaev was always going to suffer. In his shoes, I wouldn't even appeal.